How to Deal with Consequences

Israel was complaining.
They were thirsty.
They were sick of the food God had provided for them.
They grumbled that God had brought them out of Egypt to kill them in the wilderness.
Nothing was going right.
Everything was wrong. With them, with Moses, with where they were and what they were doing.
And they let it be known that they were unhappy.
(Is this sounding familiar to anyone besides me?)

God sent them a message.
Vipers in the camp.
Where they lived.
The snakes bit the people and people died. Lots of people died.

Israel got the message and they asked Moses to intercede with God for them. They admitted and confessed their sin and asked God to remove the vipers.

But God didn’t take them away.
Instead He told Moses to make a bronze serpent, mount it on a pole and hang it high where it could be seen. God told Moses, “it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.” (Numbers 21:8b NAS)

God heard the people and He answered their prayers.
Just not how they wanted.
They wanted the consequences...
the problem
the pain
the danger
Wiped out. Eliminated.
After all, they confessed their sin and repented. An immediate resolution would have been nice.

But God didn’t do that. There were consequences to their sin. Lingering, painful and potentially deadly consequences. The vipers were not removed from their camp. In fact, the vipers still bit the people.

If it were me I’d be begging… But God, I told You I was sorry! I repented. I quit complaining and got my attitude taken care of. Why are these vipers still here? Why are we…why am I still being bitten by snakes?

There are consequences to our actions.
God doesn’t just sweep them all away when we come running back to Him. Sure, He may sometimes, but more often than not, He doesn’t and we have to live with those consequences.

The Israelites wanted a quick fix—the removal of the problems brought on by their sin. Instead God gave them an antidote for their problems. FAITH. When the people were bitten they were to look at the bronze serpent on the pole and have FAITH that God would take care of them and heal them. They had to take their focus off their problem and off their pain and look to God in faith.

That antidote is still valid today.
But we need to let go of our stubbornness and pride and turn our attention to Jesus.
We need to take our focus off our problems and pain and focus on the antidote: Jesus.
It takes faith.

God didn’t leave Israel to die in the wilderness. He provided for them and brought them into the Promised Land.

As His children, God won’t leave us. He’s given us that promise.
“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” Then Moses called to Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land which the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall give it to them as an inheritance. The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. Deuteronomy 31:6-8 NASB

When it comes to dealing with consequences, we need to take our eyes off our problems and look to Jesus. Focus on Him and Him alone. He goes with us and He will not fail us nor forsake us.

Taking the Risk

In the past few days I read Numbers 13 and 14. It’s a story that we learn in Sunday School as children and a passage that I both love and dread.

The nation of Israel has left Egypt and slavery behind. They’ve crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, taken the long way through the wilderness, have seen God work in miraculous ways for months, and now they’re camped at Kadesh-Barnea. They’re a stone’s throw from the Promised Land—the place generations have dreamed of returning to. For 40 days the Israelites wait to hear about the land God has brought them to—the land He said He was giving to them.

Finally, the 12 spies return and all that anticipation and excitement turns to fear as spy after spy stands and tells of giants and obstacles that await them on the other side of the river. Only 2 voices tell of the beauty and bounty of the land. The people become restless as fear settles on them and tightens its grip on them. After a night of turmoil and tears the people agree. “If only we had died in he land of Egypt, or if only we had died in theis wilderness! Why is the LORD bringing us into this land to die by the sword? Our wives and little children will become plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” (Numbers 14:2-3)

I always want to shout, No! Don’t do it! Don’t you remember the slavery? How could you even think of going back? Don’t you remember all the things God has been doing for you?

Truth be told, I’m so much like the nation of Israel at this point that it’s…terrifying.

Kadesh-Barnea. It’s a place I’ve been to many times in my life. It’s a place that I really have mixed feelings about. A place of excitement as I look toward the anticipated opportunity. A place of anxiety as I looked toward the unknown. It’s also become a place of disappointment as fear takes over and I turn around and head back into the wilderness.

It's funny how God orchestrates all the details of life.
Take the risk of lose the chance. Photo by Cheryl Flatt.
I was chatting with my sister the other day and she sent this quote to me. She was talking about herself but it stopped me in my tracks. It was the THIRD time the same message was hitting me in a very short time. For three months I’ve been keeping some things buried but it all came gurgling out as I furiously texted Cheryl. I knew I was at the river. Again. And I feared that if I didn’t step this time that the wilderness would claim me for good.

I knew all the obstacles and objections. I’ve lived with them many times in my life.

It was time I refocused on all that God has done and is doing.

That’s when I realized that there was no risk in obeying.
I really had nothing to lose.
But everything to gain.

What about you? Are you sitting in your own Kadesh-Barnea listening to reports of great obstacles and how small you are in comparison? Don’t listen to them! When you obey God, He fights for you and what the enemy means for evil God turns into good for you. I’m not gonna lie, it will be hard. There will be losses—but maybe some of those losses are things you need to lose (me too!!).

Turn away from the voices that say you can’t or shouldn’t and tune your ear to God. Remember and focus on all He’s done for you and move forward.

Sometimes you have to take the risk or lose the chance.

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